“The MTV exclusivity deal turned out to be a disaster for the labels MTV stopped showing music for the most part”

Well, maybe 15 years later, long after those deals expired. Reports at the time was that CBS got $8 mil which they got to pocket because as with everything else, video production costs was coming out of the artists’ back end. I’m not claiming it’s a perfect analog to what’s happening now, my point was that this was the behavior I assumed they would have tried when the Web broke as opposed to the whole suing their customers thing as a top-line strategy.

Who knows how either Web or music companies would have faired had those deals been in place. I kind of doubt things would have played out exactly as they have with the same winners and losers.

To play devil’s advocate to a larger point, it might be just as dubious to use the recent past as a guide – do you think the churn of the last 10 years represents what the next 10 years will look like? Doesn’t a winnowing take place after a certain amount of time? (Figure we’re 14 years into an industry that will last a few hundred.)

fwiw I hope you guys are right and “the only value the labels provide is the power of their promotion engines” because as far a I know no major label have ever, as in never, broken a band. The band breaks itself, proves it has an audience, and then the labels cash in and sucks the artists’ till dry. There is zero expertise there.